Browning, Elizabeth Barrett

BORN 6 Mar 1806, Coxhoe, Durham: Coxhoe Hall - DIED 29 Jun 1861, Firenze, Toscana: Casa Guidi
BIRTH NAME Moulton-Barrett, Elizabeth Barrett
CAUSE OF DEATH burst abcess in the trachea
GRAVE LOCATION Firenze, Toscana: Cimitero Degli Inglesi, Piazzale Donatello, 38

Elizabeth Browning was born as Elizabeth Barret. Her father was Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett and her mother Mary Graham Clarke. She was the eldest of twelve children. When she was five the family moved to Hope End, an estate near Malvern Hills in Ledbury, Herefordshire. She was educated at home and as a child she read Milton and Shakespeare.

She started writing poems before she was ten and her father published her long poem "The Battle of Marathon" in 1820. In 1821 "Stanzas Excited by Reflections on the Present State of Greece" was published in The New Monthly Magazine. In 1826 "An Essay on Mind, with Other Poems" was published. During the same year she fell ill. The doctors couldn't work out what caused her pain and she took morphine against it.

In 1828 her mother died. They family moved several times and eventually Hope End was sold and they settled at 50 Wimpole Street in London. There her cousin John Kenyon introduced her to people like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Tennyson and Carlisle. She became friends with Mary Russell Mitford.

In 1838 "The Seraphim and Other Poems" was published. During the same year she moved to Torquay, Devonshire to improve her health. But during a visit in 1840 her brother Edward drowned there and she returned to Wimpole Street. Her health had detoriated and she spent most of her time in her room upstairs. After her volume "Poems" was published in 1844 she became one of the best known poets of England. The author Robert Brown wrote an admiring letter and visited her in 1845.

Elizabeth, still an invalid, could hardly believe her eyes when the six years younger Brown secretly started courting her. In 1846 he married her secretly at St. Marylebone Parish Church and afterwards ran off with her to Italy, following the example of his idol Percy Bysshe Shelley. In 1847 they rented an apartment in the Casa Guidi, where she lived for the rest of her life.

Her father disinherited her, but she had some money of her own and she got on well with her new husband. In 1849, aged 43, she gave birth to a son, Robert Wiedemann Barrett Browning. After Wordsworth died in 1850 she was mentioned as the possible new Poet Laureate, but Tennyson was selected. In 1857 her verse novel "Aurora Leigh" was published.

After her health worsened she moved from Florence to Sienna, where she lived at the Villa Alberti. The news that her sister Henriette had died depressed her and she died at home in 1861. She was mourned in the neighbourhood and buried at the Cimitero Degli Inglesi in Florence. The nature of her illness was never discovered, but pulmonary problems in combination with her opium addiction may have led to her death.

Related persons
• knew Beecher Stowe, Harriet
• was a friend of Blagden, Isabella
• was a friend of Chorley, Henry
• visited Clarke, Mary Elizabeth
• was a friend of Garrow, Theodosia
• was painted by Gordigiani, Michele
• corresponded with Haydon, Benjamin
• was drawn by Prinsep, Valentine
• was a friend of Ruskin, John
• was a friend of Thackeray, William Makepeace

0/0/1833Elizabeth Barrett meets reverend George Hunter. The Barrett family had moved to Sidmouth in 1832 where Hunter preached. They first met around April 1833 and they formed a romantic attachment and became close friends. Hunter was married but his wife lived elsewhere after she suffering a stroke from which she wouldn't recover. He often visited the Barrett family with his daughter Mary (b.1826). 
26/10/1855Edward Bulwer-Lytton visits Robert and Elizabeth Browning in Paris. The Brownings were staying at 102 Rue de Grenelle. Bulwer-Lytton's son Robert was there as well. Edward and Robert Browning discussed spiritualism and Daniel Dunglas Home. 
15/11/1856Elizabeth Browning's "Aurora Leigh" is published by Chapman and Hall 
12/1/1857The second edition of Elizabeth Browning's "Aurora Leigh" is published by Chapman and Hall. A third edition would follow in March 1857. 
8/6/1858The Brownings host an evening in Florence that is visited by Nathaniel Hawthorne and William Cullen Bryant. The evening took place at Casa Guidi, where they lived. 


The grave of Elizabeth Browning at the Cimitero Degli Inglesi, Firenze.
Picture by Androom (03 Feb 2011)


The Casa Gidi in Florence where Elizabeth Barrett Browning lived and died.
Picture by Androom (07 Feb 2011)


The Casa Gidi in Florence where Elizabeth Barrett Browning lived and died.
Picture by Androom (07 Feb 2011)


Plaque for Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning in Bagni di Lucca.
Picture by Androom (18 Feb 2018)


• Jones, Kathleen, Learning not to be first, the Life of Christina Rossetti, The Windrush Press, Gloucestershire, 1991
• Sampson, Fiona, Two Way Mirror, The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Profile Books, London, 2021
Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Wikipedia
Chronology | Brownings' Correspondence

Bruck, Karl Ludwig, Freiherr von

Published: 15 Mar 2011
Last update: 30 Mar 2024